Tuesday, February 25, 2014

On This Day in Elizabethan History: The Execution of Essex, and more

A portrait of Robert Devereux, Earl of Essex. By Marcus Gheeraerts, circa 1596. National Maritime Museum. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On this day in Elizabethan history in 1601, (which had been an Ash Wednesday) Robert Devereux, the Earl of Essex, was beheaded for treason.
How did this royal favorite wind up with his head upon the block? And what were the repercussions for his friends and family? Learn the answers to these questions in our BeingBess article about the fall of the Earl of Essex.

Also today in Elizabethan history....

In 1570, Queen Elizabeth I, despite being a Protestant, was excommunicated from the Catholic Church by Pope Pius V. As a confirmed heretic in contempt of the "one true faith", Pius V had effectively absolved Catholic Europe of sin if they were to assassinate Elizabeth.

A composite image of Pope Pius V and Queen Elizabeth I (The Ermine Portrait). Shared for public use on Wikimedia Commons by JW1805.

A year later, in 1571, Queen Elizabeth promoted her hardworking secretary, William Cecil to the peerage, creating him Baron Burghley. He also earned a seat in the House of Lords. 

A portrait of William Cecil, Lord Burghley, depicted in his robes for The Order of the Garter. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Feb 24th/25th, 1603:The Death of the Countess of Nottingham

Portrait of a Lady, believed to be Katherine, Countess of Nottingham. By an artist from the English school, circa 1595-97. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On either the 24th or the 25th of February, Katherine Carey-Howard, Countess of Nottingham died in 1603, the same year as her famous relative and good friend, Queen Elizabeth I of England.

Katherine Carey-Howard is not to be confused with her aunt, Katherine Carey, Lady Knollys, who was Elizabeth I's first cousin on her mother's side by her aunt, Mary Boleyn, nor is she to confused with Katherine Howard, the ill-fated fifth wife of King Henry VIII.

Learn about the life of this Katherine, the Countess of Nottingham, including her career, marriage, and close relationship with the Queen of England in our BeingBess article about her.

Thursday, February 20, 2014

The Death of Anne Parr-Herbert

A sketch of Anne Parr, sister of Queen Katherine Parr. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On this day in 1552, Anne Parr-Herbert, sister of Queen Katherine Parr and wife of William Parr, 1st Earl of Pembroke, died. The Countess died at Baynard's Castle and was buried at St. Paul's Cathedral.

To learn more about Anne's life and family, please view/follow these BeingBess Pinterest boards:

Herbert & Sidney Families

Katherine Parr 

To learn about Anne's son, Henry Herbert, 2nd Earl of Pembroke and his wife, Mary Sidney-Herbert, Countess of Pembroke, please read our BeingBess article, "Elizabethan Power Couple: The 2nd Earl and Countess of Pembroke".

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

The Death of Ridolfi

A portrait of Mary, Queen of Scots. By an unknown artist, circa 1575. Glasgow Art Gallery. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On this day in 1612, Roberto di Ridolfi died in Florence, Italy. Ridolfi, a banker, was the orchestrator of the Ridolfi Plot to assassinate Queen Elizabeth I in 1571 and replace her with her Catholic cousin, Mary, Queen of Scots.

You can read more about the Ridolfi Plot in our BeingBess article on Thomas Howard, 4rth Duke of Norfolk.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Execution of the 'Nine-Day Queen'

The Execution of Lady Jane Grey. By Paul Delaroche, 1833. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On this day in Tudor history in 1554, Jane Grey, a Tudor cousin who had ruled England for a little over a week, was executed at the Tower of London on the orders of Queen Mary I. Though this act may seem cruel and unnecessary to our modern sensibilities, Mary was the rightful Queen of England, and in order to secure her throne, she had to dispose of the usurpers, Jane and her husband Guildford Dudley, and their supporters. Jane and Guildford had been placed in power by Guildford's ambitious father, the Duke of Northumberland, who had persuaded the dying Edward VI to change the line of succession to pass to 'Jane Grey and her heir(s) male'. The Duke was also the father of Elizabeth's favorite, Robert Dudley, later Earl of Leicester. Robert, along with the other Dudley men, was imprisoned in the Tower, but his life was luckily spared.

'Iane/Jane', carved by one of the Dudley brothers in the Tower of London. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

To learn more about Jane, her life, and her family, please visit our Pinterest board, Jane Grey & Family.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

On This Day in Elizabethan History: Mary Stuart is Executed

A 1613-14 depiction by an unknown Dutch artist of the execution of Mary Stuart, Queen of Scots, and the subsequent destruction of her personal items (left). Image acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

On this day in Elizabethan history in 1587, Mary Stuart, former Queen of Scotland was executed privately at Fotheringhay Castle. She remained unrepentant of the plots for which she had been found guilty, and defiant until her last moment when the axe cleaved her head from her body. All personal articles of clothing worn by the Queen on the scaffold (including her carefully chosen red dress, red being the color of a Catholic martyr) were destroyed so that they could not be fashioned into relics. Therefore, the chemise on display at Coughton Court (and all over Pinterest, for that matter) that is said to be have been worn by Mary, Queen of Scots at her execution is almost certainly a fake.

The execution of her cousin had a profound effect on Elizabeth, both personally and politically, and provided an acceptable catalyst for the invasion of England by Philip II’s Spanish Armada in 1588.

You can read about the Babington Plot, Mary’s trial, her guilty verdict, and her execution in the following BeingBess posts…

Friday, February 7, 2014

On This Day in Elizabethan History: Mary Stuart Learns of Her Date with the Executioner

A portrait of Sir Amyas Paulet (c.1536-1588). Picture via Luminarium.org. Image public domain.

On this day in Elizabethan history in 1587, Mary Stuart learned that her execution for treason would be carried out the following day. Sir Amyas (Amias) Paulet, who had been entrusted with the duty of keeping Mary under house arrest since 1585, informed his prisoner that she was to die, and that she should complete her final affairs. Paulet had been far less tolerant of Mary than his predecessors, and the two had often butted heads. He must have really relished delivering the news. Mary spent her last day on earth writing her will, and in her final six hours she wrote her last letter, which survives. 

The recipient of the letter was her former brother-in-law, Henri III, King of France. Mary's first husband was Francis II, who died in 1560. In the letter, Mary assures Henri III that she has always been a good Catholic, and she adamantly professes her belief that the real reason she is being executed is because of her faith, and for her claim to the English throne (NLS, MS.54.1.1)

Thursday, February 6, 2014

The 39 Articles of Faith are Finalized

Queen Elizabeth I's Bishop's Bible, 1568. Folger Shakespeare Library. Picture acquired through Wikimedia Commons. Image public domain.

In February of 1563, the 39 Articles of Faith, the doctrinal foundation of the present-day Anglican Church, were finally agreed upon. You can read about the details of the Elizabethan Church Settlement in our BeingBess article HERE.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

On This Day in Elizabethan History: Queen Elizabeth Signs the Execution Warrant of Mary Stuart

Queen Elizabeth I's signature and seal from Mary Stuart's warrant for execution. Image Marilee Cody.

On this day in Elizabethan history in 1587, Queen Elizabeth I reluctantly signed the execution warrant of her cousin, Mary Stuart, the former Queen of Scotland. She could no longer ignore her cousin's plots and schemes now that she had been convicted of treason. Though Elizabethacknowledged her cousin's guilt when she signed her name to the warrant, she gave strict instructions that the execution was not to be carried out without her express permission. There was an understanding between the monarchies of Europe that anointed sovereigns were not to be subject to the laws of one another; they were only expected to answer to God. Politically, the execution of Mary Stuart would set a dangerous legal precedent. And personally, for Elizabeth it would be a traumatic reminder of the death of her own mother. Henry VIII had executed Anne Boleyn who, not royal by birth, had been raised up from her status as a subject by being anointed and crowned Queen of England. Elizabeth loathed the idea of causing the death of a queen.

The evidence against Mary and the legality of the subsequent trial proceedings is still a subject that is hotly debated by 16th century historians. Whether or not you believe that she was "entrapped" by Walsingham and his men, it cannot be denied that Mary did, in fact, send correspondence to Anthony Babington which agreed to his sinister plan, and even offered her suggestions and personal messages of support.  It should be mentioned here that Mary’s conspiracies against Elizabeth and England date back farther than the Babington plot itself, which is one of the reasons why Elizabeth denied her asylum in England.

The cipher code of Mary, Queen of Scots from the Babington plot letters. Image via the UK National Archives. Image public domain.

But, the question of whether an anointed sovereign can be tried, convicted, and executed in a foreign land is a much more difficult thing to determine. Mary had foolishly entered England despite Queen Elizabeth telling her not to cross the border, and therefore she was technically trespassing. The way I see it, Queen Elizabeth’s hand was forced in the matter, (and admittedly, the impulsive and problematic Mary had conveniently delivered herself to Elizabeth on a silver platter) and she then had to detain Mary in England and keep her under surveillance for national security reasons. Mary had entered England willingly, thus putting herself under English law. 

A photo of one of the many pieces of embroidery completed by Mary, Queen of Scots during her captivity. Image Marilee Cody.

From careful analysis of the contemporary evidence, investigations into the related conspiracy theories, and debates with fellow historians and academics, I have come to the conclusion that Mary Stuart was indeed guilty of conspiring with Babington and his men to have Queen Elizabeth I killed, place herself on the throne with the help of a Spanish army, and restore Protestant England to the Roman papacy.

Elizabeth's council knew how dangerous Mary was not just as a traitor, but as a symbol, a figurehead for all Catholic rebellion in England. They were also incredibly frustrated at Queen Elizabeth’s in-action, even now that the warrant was signed. Queen Elizabeth was an expert at procrastination to force political change and to gain support, but her apprehension over the execution of her cousin was something else entirely. The council so desperately wanted Mary dead that they defied their sovereign’s wishes and agreed to endure her inevitable wrath together, all co-signing the legal documents that brought about the former Queen of Scotland’s end. Mary was privately executed on February 8th at Fotheringay Castle. Once it had been done, Queen Elizabeth was informed. She was first beside herself with grief and anguish, and the contemporary sources as well as the nature of Elizabeth’s complicated relationship with her cousin suggest that this reaction was genuine. She then became vengeful, throwing William Davison, the privy councillor who had taken defied Elizabeth's wishes by processing the warrant, in the Tower of London. That being said, Queen Elizabeth was a political genius, and it is entirely possible that the death warrant being processed without her knowledge was her plan all along. In orchestrating the execution in an indirect way, she would not have to take responsibility for the act, much like Henry II’s knights dealt with Thomas a’Becket for him when he cried out for someone to rid him of that “wretched priest”. Our strongest piece of evidence for this theory is that Mr. Davison, after cooling his heels in the Tower, was released. If this was, in fact Elizabeth’s idea all along, her grief over causing the death of her cousin should still be interpreted as genuine.

Elizabethan Privy Council manuscript concerning Mary, Queen of Scots that went up for auction recently. Photo via Paul Fraser Collectibles.

The execution of Mary Stuart provided an acceptable catalyst for Phillip II of Spain to invade England in 1588.